OSU receives $4.3 million grant to help safeguard U.S. nuclear stockpile

Oregon State University has been awarded $4.3 million from the National Nuclear Security Agency to work on computer simulations essential to ensuring the safety and security of the United States’ nuclear weapons stockpile.

OSU was one of nine universities chosen as lead institutions for the agency’s Predictive Science Academic Alliance Program, which harnesses collaborative university projects and the largest and most powerful computer systems in the world to solve complex scientific and engineering problems.

Oregon State’s Center for Exascale Monte Carlo Neutron Transport will use the five-year grant to generate new algorithms and also produce new researchers for the U.S. national laboratory system. Led by Todd Palmer, professor of nuclear science and engineering, OSU researchers from a variety of disciplines will advance neutron transport simulations on evolving computing platforms.

“This sophisticated simulation capability is essential for ensuring the safety and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile,” Palmer said. “Our center brings together researchers from across OSU’s College of Engineering, along with scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Notre Dame, to collaborate with the U.S. national laboratories and NVIDIA.”

Oregon State’s new NVIDIA GPU-based research computing capability and partnership with NVIDIA were significant factors in OSU’s selection for the program, Palmer said. NVIDIA is a global technology company that designs and manufactures graphics processing units for a wide variety of platforms and is known as a pioneer and world leader in visual computing. Its co-founder is 1984 OSU graduate Jen-Hsun Huang, who serves as the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Palmer’s team of researchers will build a next-generation simulation tool for modeling the transport of neutrons in rapidly evolving problems. The work will affect fast burst nuclear test reactors, nuclear fusion reactors and astrophysics research.

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